A judicial review has been launched against the Home Office's controversial decision to allow a facility which breeds beagles for research to be built in Yorkshire.
Cruelty Free International launched the review after the government granted permission for thousands of puppies to be bred by B&K Universal Ltd (B&K Ltd) to be used in laboratory experiments. B&K Ltd is owned by US multinational animal supplier Marshall BioResource.
Hundreds of thousands of people opposed the plans, which were originally turned down by the local council in 2013, but overturned by Communities Secretary Greg Clark in July this year.
More than half a million signed a petition calling for the government's decision to be reversed.
A Cruelty Free International spokesman said that if the Home Office changes its mind and decides that outside runs should be provided, then it would be "difficult to see how the development... [could] go ahead, given the planning condition".
However, B&K Ltd maintains that the facility will go ahead, regardless of the findings of the review.
Queen guitarist May has spoken out against the plans before, saying: "I am sickened to hear that this facility is to go ahead, ignoring the views of the public and local authorities and condemning these best friends of man to thousands of unethical and unnecessary tests. This is an appalling message to send out to the world.”
Cruelty Free International believes that the government's decision to allow the breeding facility violates European Union legislation, as no outdoor access will be provided for the dogs.
The animal protection organisation said that, if the Home Office had not given the green light to denying dogs outside runs, then the recent planning appeal by B&K might have been rejected.
However, B&K Ltd disagrees with the charity's claim, saying European law requires outdoor access for dogs "where possible".
While Cruelty Free International said that many laboratories do provide access outdoors, B&K said this is not true.
The dog supplier said it would not "make sense" for them to provide canines with the external space prior to the animals being used for experimental tests.
B&K Ltd said that outdoor runs would contribute to a decline in the health status of dogs at the facility, exposing them to a wide range of infections carried by wildlife, which would potentially invalidate research studies
But Cruelty Free International points to EU Directive 2010/63, which requires animal welfare considerations to be given the “highest priority” and that dog breeding establishments must provide their dogs with outside access where possible.
Dr Katy Taylor, director of science at Cruelty Free International states: “This is a really poorly reasoned decision by the Home Office, which gives every impression of wanting to facilitate B&K’s planning appeal instead of engaging in rigorous science and protecting the welfare of dogs.”
Cruelty Free International said that B&K already has outside runs but is considering destroying them following concerns about noise.
The animal organisation highlighted a number of concerns they have about the government's decision.
It said that the Home Office had not pointed to any particular evidence of pathogen transmission to dogs around the B&K Ltd site, had failed to take into account measures which could eliminate most forms of transmission in outside runs and had also not cited any research showing that the pathogens could interfere with science.
Cruelty Free International said that even if there was evidence that some dogs should be kept indoors, because of their intended use, that cannot be said of most B&K dogs, who are earmarked for standard toxicology tests.
David Gatehouse, spokesman for B&K Ltd, called the judicial review a "desperate attempt to keep the issue alive" and said that the facility will go ahead "as planned".
Mr Gatehouse said: "Even if the Home Office exemption were to be overturned, we already have outdoor runs for dogs at our site and it would not contravene the planning permission if we were obliged to bring these back into service."
A Home Office spokesman told the Huffington Post UK that they would not be able to comment on "any ongoing legal proceedings".